We’re passionate about the people we are trying to help because, ultimately, it could be one of our own

23 October 2020

Earlier in the week I had a conversation with a family friend who lives in a remote village in Southern Bavaria. The village had just experienced its first COVID case. She’s medically vulnerable and within hours of hearing the news a local public health official had visited her and discussed the need for testing, and if positive, the benefits of isolation.

The same day I was involved in meetings discussing whether positive results from the Test and Trace programme in England should be sent to a central police database and whether people who were ignoring the guidance about isolation should be fined.

Germany and the UK are trying to achieve the same thing but are going about it in different ways. I know which approach I prefer, for the simple reason beautifully expressed by a local government employee in Cumbria:

"We’re passionate about the people we are trying to help because, ultimately, it could be one of our own."

Testing is a technical exercise and I’m pretty confident that the Test and Trace programme will get on top of it. Tracing and encouraging isolation are deeply personal.

Latest updates from your College

Building General Practice

Yesterday we held the College’s first ever virtual conference - Building General Practice - in lieu of our usual Annual Conference, which we had to cancel due to the pandemic.

I was delighted to give delegates an overview of the College’s response to COVID, as well as reflecting on some of the key lessons we’ve learnt and how the College thinks these will change the way we practice in the future. If you weren’t able to attend you can read it on our website.

The day kicked off with a video message from English Health Secretary Matt Hancock, who praised the work of GPs during the pandemic, and a thought-provoking address by Anthony Costello, professor of global health, University College London, looking at how different countries have tackled the pandemic. Other sessions covered patient-centred care, the future of GP consultations and health inequalities. Thank you to members of the Officer Team who hosted sessions and took part in discussions, and all the speakers throughout the day - initial feedback has been excellent.

Thank you also to the more than 1500 members who attended - and for those who weren’t able to, all sessions will be posted on the College’s Online Learning Environment next week.

We’ll be hosting another virtual conference - A Fresh Approach to General Practice - in February. Check our conference webpage for more details and earlybird offers.

Celebrating Black History Month

Black History Month at the College has been a timely opportunity to take stock of where we are - and how far we still have to go to achieve true equality.

It has been moving, albeit difficult at times, to hear of the prejudice levelled at some of our Black Asian and Minority Ethnic colleagues who continue to be judged on the basis of the colour of their skin, rather than their ability to be good GPs and care for patients.

This is totally unacceptable and the College has already committed to doing what we can to call out and address racism and discrimination in all its forms, within the College and general practice. See our BAME Action Plan (199 KB PDF).

While our colleagues have had to endure the most awful experiences and tolerate appalling behaviours, it’s also reassuring to know that there is a very palpable sense of positivity about the future and a determination to do things differently to create a fairer profession for all of us who work in it, now and in the future.

Some of our members, College Officers and staff have filmed videos to mark Black History Month and we are hoping that this might be the start of building up a College 'bank' of lived experiences and suggestions for how we can change things for the better in future.

Thank you to everyone who has contributed so far.

Setting the record straight

I mentioned in my speech - and in the blog last week- how annoyed it makes me when GPs are unfairly vilified in the media and how the College is committed to publicly defending the profession against this criticism. On Sunday, The Telegraph published my letter addressing several negative articles the paper has published on GP access. I reiterated how the new ways in which we’re working are necessary to manage infection control - and that GPs and our teams have been working incredibly hard throughout. I also highlighted that despite the rhetoric, more than 400,000 face to face consultations are being made in general practice every day.

I know how demoralising negative media coverage can be, so I hope you thought this went some way to setting the record straight.

I was also pleased to see more than 400 GPs sign a letter to The Times speaking out against untrue claims that general practice is closed - well done to all who organised the letter, and thank you to everyone who signed it.

Research Paper of the Year

Many congratulations to this year’s Research Paper of the Year winners. The overall prize, in the category of Clinical Research has gone to Professors Chris Butler of Oxford University and Nick Francis of the University of Southampton for their fascinating paper looking into the use of C-Reactive Protein Testing as a guide for antibiotics prescribing for patients who present with COPD exacerbations. Dr Ross McQueenie of Glasgow University and Julie Pattinson of the University of Lincoln also won in Health Services and Medical Education categories respectively.

Well done to you all. High quality research in primary care is essential - now more than ever - as we work to improve the ways in which we practice and deliver care to our patients.


We’ll be hosting our Annual General Meeting virtually on Friday 20 November, the day before RCGP Council. It will be held 12:30 - 13:30 and any member who wishes to attend can register by emailing secretariat@rcgp.org.uk.

More details about the AGM can be found on the RCGP website.

Post written by

Professor Martin Marshall, Chair of RCGP Council

Professor Martin Marshall is Chair of the Royal College of General Practitioners and a GP in Newham, East London. He is also Professor of Healthcare Improvement at UCL in the Department of Primary Care and Population Health. Previously he was Programme Director for Population Health and Primary Care at UCLPartners (2014-2019), Director of Research & Development at the Health Foundation (2007-2012), Deputy Chief Medical Officer for England and Director General in the Department of Health (2006-2007), Professor of General Practice at the University of Manchester (2000-2006) and a Harkness Fellow in Healthcare Policy. 

He is a Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians of London and of the Faculty of Public Health Medicine and was a non-executive director of the Care Quality Commission until 2012. He has advised governments in Singapore, Egypt, Canada and New Zealand, has over 230 publications in the field of quality improvement and health service redesign and his primary academic interest is in maximising the impact of research on practice. In 2005 he was awarded a CBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours for Services to Health Care. 

A co-founder and driving force of the Rethinking Medicine movement, Martin has a passionate commitment to the values of the NHS, patient care and ensuring the GP voice is central in a time of great change. When he’s not working, he likes being outside, preferably on a mountain or a coastal path with his wife Sue and their puppy. 

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